The calling to become a minister can come over a person at any point in life. Individuals who realize their calling in late adolescence are ideally suited to pursue a conventional course of theological study in preparation for their ministry. What about those who decide to pursue their Christian education when they’re older? Online bible colleges offer them the opportunity to learn and grow without demanding a complete upheaval in their lives.
Advantages Of The Online Model
Obviously, an online Christian college’s greatest advantage is its convenience. Students are able to learn at their own pace and do not have to travel to a centralized institution. This can be invaluable for busy students who find it impossible to abandon the concerns of their careers and families. The communications tools used by students and teachers in an online setting are often more comprehensive than traditional college methods; online students, for instance, typically have complete access to audio and video recordings and transcripts of all their lectures.
Online Christian colleges also offer their students a greater level of flexibility than many conventional schools. It’s possible with most online colleges for students to define their own courses of study. This is an excellent way to tailor a curriculum to fit the needs of individual students. For instance, the balance between practical ministerial instruction and abstract theological education can be adjusted to suit a given student’s interests.
Choosing The Right Online Bible College
Of course, not all Bible colleges are created equal. Sadly, some of the sites that offer college-level Christian education are unscrupulous, profit-driven enterprises that don’t confer quality education in exchange for students’ tuition. Other online colleges are earnest in their desire to educate students but lack the official accreditation (e.g. from the Association for Higher Biblical Education) that graduates will need to make full use of their courses.
Students have to take on the responsibility to carefully define their needs and confirm that their chosen college meets them. Accreditation and other qualifications must be reviewed from both ends: Students should confirm with regulatory bodies that the online Christian college has actually complied with their rules.
Limitations Of Online Christian Education
As noted above, some courses of online Biblical education aren’t suited to students who want to make their college study the foundation of a future career in ministry. There are also issues of denominational conflict that can arise with online Christian education. Most online Bible education programs strive to be all-inclusive and turn no student away. Some denominations will not recognize the results of such an education, requiring more specific, dedicated studies.
Online Bible students are strongly advised to consult with their clergy regarding their educational plans before making any financial commitments. Clergy members are usually well-informed on Christian educational matters in general and extremely knowledgeable about their specific denomination’s requirements. Their advice should be heeded by students who want to get the most out of their Bible college experience.
Thanks to modern technology, attending Bible college no longer requires students to put their lives on pause for years at a time. Online colleges allow Christians who are interested in ministry to cultivate the skills they will need at their own pace. This is a tremendous asset for students who would otherwise find it impossible to get the theological instruction they need to achieve their goals.
Online Degree Rankings
Before investing in guidebooks like “Best Colleges” for a given year or even checking online degree program rankings, please realize that most of these rankings will not be of help in seeking an online bible college degree or ministerial training.
For the most part these are produced by secular reviewers who may not take too kindly to religious teaching or institutions. Their idea of the “best” may be a program at some Ivy League seminary or university which, frankly, may be out of touch with the needs of the congregation or ministry you plan to serve.
A Word about Free Online Bible College and Free Online Seminary Courses
Why would someone consider free online Bible College or Seminary courses? Several reasons…
- If cost is a factor, it’s possible to enroll in free online Bible college courses or free online seminary classes (often called “MOOC’s” for “Massive Open Online Course“). With such courses it is possible to acquire quite a bit of knowledge in subjects like Bible, the Bible as literature, or aspects of Biblical, Systematic, or Historical Theology.
- If a suitable free online course is found, taking a “MOOC” or other low cost online class is a good way to determine whether the online learning environment is a good choice for any given student. In general, online classes are easier to complete than yesteryear’s “correspondence courses”. Online courses have a variety of ways to keep the student on track since course work can even be completed over one’s mobile device. Some students find they need actual class room interaction to thrive however. Unless the class offers real time “chats” or other interaction, residential study may be preferable for some students.
More about MOOC’s:
While these free online courses are helpful for several reasons, some drawbacks remain:
- Unfortunately, the sum of all one’s free training may not “add up” to either a recognizable “degree” or provide the knowledge or skill base needed for actual ministry. Piecing together free online courses will likely never allow a student to include the same coursework one would get in a traditional residential or online degree program. In addition, while a course may be free or inexpensive, it may not reflect the student’s own doctrinal positions and may be unsuitable for that reason. The content may also be “dumbed down” and not be as rigorous as a genuine online course offered in a degree program.
- Unlike some college or seminary courses that are offered every semester, free online courses may not be available on a regular basis.
Some Options for Online Bible and Seminary Training:
In addition to seeing if schools connected with the student’s congregation have online degree options, these programs may be worth looking into…
AntiochSchool.edu offers online and extension programs with some limited residential requirements through affiliated church based programs. They offer Certificates of Ministry and Bachelor of Ministry to Doctor of Ministry Programs. These programs emphasize not only traditional learning but implementation in the crucible of the local church with the aim of reproducing disciples worldwide. They have a moderate cost and serious emphasis on building the student’s knowledge base and practical skills and spiritual disciplines. They do not seem to be accredited at this time.
Christian Leaders Institute If all you care about is the training, CLI offers free online bible college training. It is NOT accredited, and may NOT be recognized by any church, denomination, or ministry you wish to serve. As a starting point to test one’s interest and resolve, it may be the perfect option. While accreditation isn’t available with this option, the school – through their ordination program – may help you communicate what you have learned to church leaders and tailor your studies to meet their local ordination requirements. The school is evangelical and broadly “reformed”. The founder Henry Reyenga is Christian Reformed in Background.